Photography and Art

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


As I travel around the world, slowly pecking away at my bucket list, there are still a few places that feel like you stepped out of a time machine. Zanzibar is one of those places. If you squint your eyes just slightly, you can convince yourself that the year is 1880 and the slave and spice trades are still going full swing. Stone town seems timeless with its winding alleys, its imposing doors and its markets. Look out into the harbour, and you can still see dhows taking merchandise back and forth between the mainland and Zanzibar as they have done for hundreds of years.

Here's a Dhow sailing towards Stone Town

Our host for our visit to Zanzibar was Hemed Mohammed who runs a new tour company called Salama Island Tours. Hemed knows Zanzibar and specializes in holidays on the island. He can arrange a wide variety of accommodation and activities including interaction with the local inhabitants which is always very rewarding. 

We stayed for four days and particularly enjoyed two hotels: the mid-priced Dhow Palace Hotel and the wonderful upscale Serena Hotel.  There is so much to do on the island. If you like diving, there are scuba and snorkeling excursions to the reefs off Prison Island. If you like history, there is a wonderful museum in an old palace that shows artifacts of the slave trade and spice trade era. The food is fabulous, with lots of fresh sea food served in rooftop restaurants with a view of the city. Hemed can arrange a spice tour that takes you to the plantations so you can see where cloves and other spices are grown. Here's our host for the spice tour trying on some make-up :-)

A tour of Stone Town gives you a great idea of what life was like in the slave trading era. Here's Hemed explaining why the doors are so interesting. Apparently, the doors reflect the Indian style and have lots of metal on them to discourage elephants from breaking them down. Even though there are no elephants in Zanzibar, the Indian inhabitants of Stone Town continued to build the doors in the traditional way.

One of my favorite activities was  the evening dhow cruise where you can experience sailing in traditional vessel while enjoying a glass of wine and entertainment. The sunset on the harbour was delightful.

Another terrific thing to do is to relax on the patio of the Africa House hotel. This hotel used to be the English residents' club and still resonates of colonial times. Here's the view from the patio:

If you want to get a true sense of African life, make sure you take in the loading of the car ferry each afternoon. The fun starts when the ferry, a converted landing craft, comes into shore and drops its ramp onto the beach. After the vehicles and people exit, it's time to load a new batch of cars and people for the trip to Dar es Salaam. All the cars line up in an alley way and then, one at a time, have to traverse 100 yards of deep sandy beach and climb the steep ramp while dodging men carrying 200 pound sacks of produce on their backs. Each car inevitably gets stuck in the sand and requires a push by all the spectators watching from the beach. The sport goes on all afternoon and well into the evening. Each vehicle is a fresh challenge to African ingenuity and persistence. It is a wonder that the ferry gets loaded at all and that no one gets run over and killed.

Here's an example of a hopelessly stuck vehicle with lots of helpers gathering

One of the advantages of using a local tour company like Salama Island Tours is the access to people who live in Zanzibar. Hemed took us home to visit his sister and see how a fairly well-to-do islander lives and enjoy a wonderful lunch. Here are some pictures of the occasion:

The Living Room - note the TV and pictures of local dignitaries

The feast. Lots of wonderful local produce.

Hemed's lovely sister

Here are some more pictures of Zanzibar, one of my favourite places on the planet:

Feeding the Madagascar tortoises on Prison Island

Enjoying spiced tea during our tour of the spice plantation

A fishing boat passes a dhow

A view of the harbour at sunset. The car ferry is leaving (bottom left)

Stone Town

Another great sunset view.

Unfortunately for the people of Zanzibar and the victims, the ferry MV Spice Islander sunk on September 10th, 2011 with over 187 fatalities. For more information, see the following articles:


  1. So wonderful blog depicting a true face of the politically newly born Zanzibar. Create your lifetime experience by visiting Zanzibar and see by yourself the wonders of the Zanzibari people with their culture, nature and architecture

    Salama Island Tours, Zanzibar

  2. It is a awesome blog. You are really very professional photographer. I am thanking you for your all the pictures on this post especially for some Greatest Sunset photography. No doubt to say that you are one of the most intelligent Photographer of present world.

    Thanking You
    Gold Number Charms

  3. Zanzibar looks beautiful! I've seen some great honeymoon packages to get the most out of your stay.

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